Supermarket wine bill clears panel by single vote

Supermarket wine bill clears panel by single vote

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The committee voted before a packed house on Tuesday. The committee voted before a packed house on Tuesday.
"It's a war and they won the battle today," said Chip Christianson of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association. "It's a war and they won the battle today," said Chip Christianson of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association.
"Hopefully if we can move this forward, we can really look to the consumer who has expectations of being able to find things in either a liquor store or supermarket and really look to their best interest," said Food City CEO and President Steve Smith. "Hopefully if we can move this forward, we can really look to the consumer who has expectations of being able to find things in either a liquor store or supermarket and really look to their best interest," said Food City CEO and President Steve Smith.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

NASHVILLE (WATE) - A bill allowing wine in Tennessee grocery stores passes its first hurdle Monday for the first time in state history as a Senate committee approves a referendum for the decision.

The Senate committee approved a bill allowing voters to decide whether Tennessee grocery stores should sell wine in addition to the state's 600 licensed liquor stores.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Ketron, urged the panel to let the people vote on the issue, not politicians. And in a vote of five to four, they agreed.
 
The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed a bill allowing voters to decide whether Tennessee grocery stores will sell wine through a referendum.

"This is a monumental step. This has never happened before," said Jarron Springer of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association.

The proposal has the support of two of the heaviest hitters in the Legislature in Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville. Statewide public opinion polls have shown strong support for supermarket wine sales.
 
Still, it's a fight supporters have been unsuccessfully pushing for for decades, most recently since 2007 when the issue failed every year in the legislature - until now.
 
"It's a war and they won the battle today," said Chip Christianson of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association.

His group is speaking out against the vote, calling it a disappointment.
 
"These senators dropped the ball on their responsibilities," Christianson said.

The group says it has no plans to negotiate with the bill's supporters right now and doesn't believe it needs to change its message. It argues the bill could shut small businesses down.

Liquor store owners say they don't have the money to compete with chain grocery stores.

"Maybe we need to be a little clearer, but I don't think we change anything," Christianson said. "We try to present our case and hope the folks in the house look at it differently than the folks in the Senate did."
 
"Hopefully if we can move this forward, we can really look to the consumer who has expectations of being able to find things in either a liquor store or supermarket and really look to their best interest," said Food City CEO and President Steve Smith.

The wine in grocery stores bill now goes to a House committee. The earliest a vote could happen is next Wednesday.

An amendment to allow liquor stores to sell other items like cigarettes and snacks failed in the committee, but legislators say that amendment could come up again when the bill is voted on in the House.

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